exciting summer music

Seems like summer is half over already. Can it be?

Are the sounds of summer also half over? Take advantage of listening to some new music.  I was reminded today of how much fun it is to discover new artists.  Often, I get so busy, with writing music and performing, that I forget to keep feeding my “music lover” side!  Today, on my flight to LA, I had the opportunity to listen to over 2 hours’ worth of new artists on the media player on the plane!  What a gift.

And exciting news, as I travel the country working with Jewish camps on music programming, song leading, leadership development and Jewish ritual:

There are two compilations coming out soon that will be featuring two of my songs!

The first came out just this week and it’s FREE!

Craig Taubman has done it again!  A summer sampler of TRAVEL SONGS for kids and parents.

Yours truly is featured with my track “Meshuga’at” along with amazing friends and fellow music travelers Shira Kline, Sam Glaser, Peri Smilow and more! DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE for a LIMITED TIME!

And soon afterwards, LAUNCHBOX, a new initiative for teens in the Los Angeles area will be receiving a box of goodies including a sampler CD curated by Jewish Rock Radio – featuring my track “Thank You”.  Thanks to Rick Recht and the folks at JRR for the love!  More soon on this!

Happy Summer!

Follow my travels at @jchicksrock or my facebook page

SXSW Interactive produced life lessons? Go figure!

This past week, through an incredible professional development opportunity via ROI’s micro-grant program, I was able to step into a world virtually unknown to me, expand my thinking, perspective on the world and understanding of how I can further serve the Jewish community.  Oddly enough, that came from the South by Southwest Interactive Conference.
One would think, as a rock musician, I’d be better suited for the Music or even the Film conference – insanely fantastic networking.  But I took a step back and saw SXSW* Interactive as a new opportunity.  Needless to say – it was WORTH it – changing perspective, environments, leaving my comfort zone and exposing myself to a whole different world.  And, wow, the connections and new possibilities were ENDLESS.
* (that’s code for South By Southwest)
Here are 10 “Dibrot” – “sayings” that represent my life-lesson take-aways.
(Dibrot are often translated as Commandments, but I think sayings is closer to the word Dibrot)

Naomi’s 10 List
1. Networking for Others Creates BOTH Joy + Exponentially Extended Reach: I spoke with many fellow ROI’ers about their goals for SXSW. Yes, I came to take home learnings, but one of my favorite joys in life is making connections between people and ideas.  As I walked the halls, trade show or sat in sessions, I could connect my ROI colleagues’ desires by picking up business cards or information that they might be interested in. It feels REALLY good to help your colleagues and friends!!!   PLUS: Someone do the math on this, but imagine the greater ground and extended reach we have when we all operate this way!  And if that’s not reason enough, how about good old karma?
(Chaviva Galanz and I at an ROI hang during SXSW)
2. Plan for Serendipity: this actually came out of a session I attended with my new friend Yoni Sarason (Birthright Israel Next – Chicago).  The idea presented is a major life lesson.  When we enter places, meetings, conferences, etc., with a particular “track” or one particular outcome we’re looking for.  (for example: “get 10 leads on a music deal”)  that goal can limit us to serendipitous possibilities. If we enter a situation with a more open presence, we may find other opportunities that didn’t necessarily look exactly like our objective, but serve the same goal. (example: If I had only walked the halls myopically looking for folks who could connect me to music companies, I would’ve missed out on all of the other ways I could provide music in this world – like in games, interactive websites, sounds for documentaries, tv news segments.  The bigger goal is to make a living by doing music.) By leaving yourself open to serendipitious conversations, being PRESENT with folks, trusting that you know your goals – (lose the tunnel vision) –  you allow/plan for exponentially larger numbers of connections and opportunities.
3. Chasing the Unicorn is Silly (or in other words, FOMO – Fear of Missing Out): This is a pathology at SXSW.  There is this concept of “chasing the dragon” (dragon was replaced by Unicorn at SXSW) which means, whatever event you’re at – there’s some other event that’s hotter or with better connections, so you have to keep moving to chase that imaginary animal. (Apologies to all real unicorns for calling them imaginary.) The ROI’ers I was with broke through the pathology- who we were with WAS the Unicorn.  At least that was my experience.  I didn’t feel compelled to chase around, make sure I was at the “right” event – because wherever I was, there were quality interactions.  Quality interactions beats quantity in my opinion.  Plus, for those of us who actually like authentic human interaction, being present somewhere, to someone, with someone, actually feels really good for both people!
4. Chasing the Jewnicorn – or “chamsa chasing” is NOT silly: Yes, the Jewnicorn…a little joke.  We coined an activity called “Chamsa Chasing” which is really an secret (not anymore) term for “outreach”.  You see, we ROI’ers value the experience we had at ROI – living your Jewish values through social entrepreneurism, connecting with others who feel similarly, and collaborating together to make a better world (Tikkun Olam).  Therefore, we were on the lookout for social entrepreneurs at SXSW who were Jewish and might find ROI interesting as well.  At one point I  called it non-religious or Progressive Chabad.  I said this with the highest level of respect for Chabad which in my opinion, does the best outreach in the Jewish world, if not the WHOLE world.  As I’ve been quoted before in previous blogs and articles, I’m a “Jew-vangelist” – meaning, I love Judaism, I find it relevant, valuable and super engaging in my life.  So why would I not want to share that with people I meet, like or love?  So if there are folks out there who are Jewish and are social entrepreneurs, why would I not want to share my love of ROI with them.  Hence #chamsachasing at SXSW.
5. Trade Shows Rock:  There is such opportunity at trade shows. Every person you meet wants to tell you about their product or service.  But the reason they rock, is that Trade Shows are a personal challenge course game.  For every person I meet, I am challenged to connect what they do with either what I or my friends might be interested in.  It often goes beyond what they’re selling – (ex. a product development idea they haven’t thought about that I could help them with, a service that could help the Jewish community they could pilot with us.)  Possibilities are ENDLESS!  (this relates back to #2 – Planned Serendipity)
6. (Re)inventing Yourself can happen in a SECOND!: (this relates to #’s 5 and 2).  If you actually say what you do with confidence and authority, people believe you.  So even if this is the first time you’ve ever thought of yourself as a “game strategist” or a “blogger” or whatever your new passion is, when you believe it and say it out loud with confidence, unapologetically, others do as well!  (Short anecdote, in case you want to skip to #7) When I was first in NY, a new guitarist just starting out, carrying my new guitar, I bumped into LOU REED! (Yes, that Lou Reed). He looked at me.  I blurted out: I’m a musician.  He looked at me, looked at the guitar, looked back at me, nodded, smiled and walked on.  I’d never referred to myself as a musician before. Lou Reed believed me because I believed it myself!  In an instant, I was a musician.
7. Jews are Everywhere.  (They really are.)
8. Authenticity Opens Doors: A lesson encountered time and again, as I did at SXSW.  The more honest I was about who I was and what I wanted, the more people were responsive to me and wanting to help.  The less I “pitched” and the more “authentic” I was, the more open people were to expose themselves to me.  Go figure.
9. Go where you grow, not where you know.  This phrase, coined by Sarah Lefton (G-dcast.com) is built off my description of how I decided to go to the Interactive conference and not the music conference, pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  It’s a keeper, Sarah!  Call to Action moment: As a JEWISH EDUCATOR, I want to challenge my colleagues in the field to not just have conversations with like-minds, known subjects and methods, familiar conferences, etc., but to embrace professional development opportunities that push us out of our comfort zones. (Please substitute Jewish educator for whatever field you’re in.)
10. Community helps both Ground and Springboard at the same time:  (this is the safety net to #9)  Face it: it’s hard to go into unchartered, unfamiliar territory.  I was WAY overwhelmed going to SXSW Interactive.  We ROI’ers everyday had a Meet-Up which served to both ground and springboard me at the same time.  I shared connections I’d made, helped other people, heard their take on sessions or presenters I was considering attending to help me make my decision, and just laughed and experienced familiarity for a moment.  This safety net motivated me to take risks.  The shared background and shared experiences/language we had from ROI actually helped me push my own comfort zone!

HeartRock…

I am often asked

How can you be a professional Jewish Rock performer AND a worship/spiritual facilitator?  Don’t those two jobs conflict with each other?

After all, performance is about being on stage, center of attention, while being a Worship/Spiritual facilitator is about helping others connect to the divine, the universe, themselves.  How can one person do both?

While the circumstances of both can feel really different, they do cross over for me.  It has to do with where the songs come from and how they’re created.

For me, at the center of writing both is a Lev Tahor – a Pure Heart.

When I write music, whether it’s a rock tune or a meditative prayer, it comes from the same place – clearing and cleaning out my heart to allow for messages and inspiration to come through.  And trust me, a lot can cloud and clutter one’s heart.

write what they’re going to like

write something that is going to be popular and unforgettable

write something that no one else has done – make sure it’s unique

write something that’s going to sound trendy

write something that’s NOT going to sound trendy

write something that the boys will like

write something the girls will dig

write something that everyone can sing along to

These messages all dance around in my heart at the same time, deafening!  Some self-imposed, some spoken by others around me.  And it’s hard to break through that noise to get to what is supposed to come out.

So I like to spend a little time before I write, to clean and purify my heart.  To make sure I’m listening to the quiet voice, the Kol D’mahmah, inside of me that, though quiet, is true and honest.

The truth is, as a writer, when I try to write with those other messages, it ends up being “ok” music.  When I write with a pure heart, a Lev Tahor, it usually hits the bullseye.

What are the ways that you are able to have a pure heart in the rocking, writing and performing that you do?

Segregation and Celebration…and Cornerstones

Segregation and Celebration.

If you haven’t seen the news lately, just google Beit Shemesh or click here, or here or here.

In the midst of the CELEBRATION at the URJ Biennial, I added a special song to my set list, one I wrote with Fran Immerman, originally about the Conversion Bill, but more generally about how ALL voices are represented in Israel – particularly those of women.  Particular sects of Charedi (ultra religious) men are creating volatile and generally uncomfortable situations by segregating women, protesting girls getting an education in school and making women walk across the street from men or sit in the back of the bus.

The song’s working title is called “Shma Yisrael” – and joining me onstage with voices rising in solidarity were Julie Silver, Peri Smilow, Chana Rothman and Shira Kline.  

We are currently in the studio recording it with producer Glenn Grossman hopefully launching a video project to show both outrage to the government of Israel and to this Haredi sect as well as solidarity for the people of Israel who are as outraged as we are.

And now…as the calendar moves, so do we all.

I’m off to play with other experiential educators planning the 2012 CORNERSTONE FELLOWSHIP of the Foundation for Jewish Camp ,  A program I created many years ago and have returned to serve as an advisor!  It’s one of the most rewarding and downright fun times of my year!

Just a short week later, I’ll be off to Alaska to serve the Alaskan-Anchorage-based Jewish community as their Artist/Educator in residence at their annual community retreat.

In the midst of all of this, we’re BOOKING THE SUMMER LIKE CRAZY and well into the Fall of 2012 – so if you know a community interested in awesome Jewish Rock, alternative/musical/spiritual worship experiences, Jewish rock programming, girls-self-esteem development and anti-bullying programming, please do connect us to them.

In the meantime, have a great January, happy 2012 and educate yourself about the gender-segregation issues in Israel.  Your voice counts!

Getting excited for my first ever URJ Biennial

I’ve heard about it for YEARS, but have never been…

URJ Biennial. The largest gathering of Reform Jews in the world – once every other year, I presume.

And I was honored with the invitation to perform there!  I simply cannot WAIT.  So here’s a sneak peak.  And for those of you who know about QR Codes I have TWO I’m using on my Gig Promotional Card.  One for a FREE DOWNLOAD and one with a direct link to my BRAND NEW HANUKKAH TRACK: 8 NIGHTS

Hope to see you at URJ Biennial or somewhere else on the road!  Cheers…

Busy fall, before you know it, winter…

I am always amazed by how quickly we move from Summer to winter.  Where did the fall go?

Well, this year, I’m taking notice.

Partially due to the events I’ve been involved with for Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Judaism and partially through the high holiday work I did with SAJ through both main sanctuary and family services with the band this year, I’ve really felt a part of the fall season.  The themes around Yom Kippur and Sukkot – inward work to be the best person you can, and to open your tent to all people – to realize the temporariness of life and hear the call of the shofar, the call to action to do something to help this world – well, I have never felt so immersed in this work as I have this season!

We had an amazing Sukkot concert with CBST as part of their Sukkot Block Party (pic below) and met lots of new friends and supporters there. Tons of humus, good vibes, smiles and of course, a lulav and etrog to shake!  Special thanks to Cantor Josh Breitzer and Lisa Rosenberg for putting together an amazing event!

And NOW WHAT???

Well, there’s lots coming up.

Jewish Chicks Rock will be doing some major writing this fall/winter – new music, new ideas.

In the meantime, the spiritual worship side will take a front seat – with residencies in four NY-based Synagogues. Make sure to check the CALENDAR OF EVENTS or sign up on the mailing list.

But sneak preview:

November: we’ll be at the GA as well as URJ Biennial

December: Springfield, MA community concert

January: Anchorage, Alaska – their annual Jewish community conference

Peace…

Jewel of Elul – Tick Tock

8th of Elul, 5771

This past Sunday, I performed at a house concert in Northbrook, IL.  On my way over, I happened to look out of the car and saw a half-moon shining brightly in the evening sky.  It was a waxing moon. In that moment, as that half-moon lit up the sky, I became particularly aware of the passage of time.  If Bob Dylan sings “Time passes slowly up here in the mountains”, well, I was feeling the exact opposite of that lyric.  Time passes quickly, down here in the city.

It’s the 8th of Elul today, and I am feeling the quick tick-tock of time.  This time of year is a time for introspection, yes, a time to check in and figure out where one missed the mark and commits oneself to improving for the next year, a time to repair relationships that need servicing, between people and between you and God – however you understand the word.

But for me, this time of year is also a time-marker – how quickly time passes.  The sometimes exquisite pressure to get something done before it’s too late.  The excruciating reminder that aging is occurring or that bodies deteriorate.  The urgent knock-knocking on your heart to love SO hard because you never know which day might be one’s last.

I feel this pressure of time acutely this year, especially with a growing number of my inner circle of loved ones suffering from physically debilitating diseases.  I feel the urgency of appreciating the present moment.  I grasp at the clock of time and try, knowing the futility of the action, to slow it down.  I pray for the strength of Today.  The strength to not wallow in yesterday’s nostalgia or fear what tomorrow will bring, but the courage and strength to stay as present in the Today as I possibly can. The famous prayer HaYom T’amtzeinu asks God to help us by making us strong. Elul’s moonlight woke me up to time.  What will it awaken in you?

Jewels of Elul is a project of Craig Taubman.  I am a guest blogger today as part of the Jewels of Elul project.

This year, in addition to guest the blog and guest bloggers, Craig’s company has released a free compilation CD on Amazon.com. My song, “HaYom“, produced by Glenn Grossman, is one of the selected tracks. 

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